Monday, June 14, 2010

A Hero for our Times; Kraft Suspense Theatre; Lloyd Bridges; Ralph Senensky

Season 1, Episode #4

A Hero for Our Times

Original Air Date - October 31, 1963

Setting/Time - A modern city - most likely San Francisco (judging from the opening shot).

Plot/Review/Discussion - This episode is a favorite of mine. This episode made me think of "class" with respect to KST for the first time. The setting was cosmopolitan. The music was smooth. The men all wore suits and hats and drove big, late model cars. The women acted like ladies - even when their behavior was not so ladylike.

The plot makes one think. The main character faces a choice. The suspense revolves around what choice he will make.

The main character is a successful business executive with a wife and a mistress. While staying at his mistress' apartment one evening, he witnesses a murder next door. It becomes apparent quickly that the police will charge the wrong man and that the main character is the only one that knows the mistake. He faces a choice between coming forward to save the innocent suspect or staying silent to protect his own secret. The plot becomes more complicated when the main character faces a possible promotion to his high profile company's board of directors. For him to come forward and reveal an affair would be professional suicide in 1963.

We watch him struggle with his dilemma as he hides his secret from his wife and co-workers. Modern dramas feature several plots in one episode, thus implying a short attention span on the part of the audience. While KST features one plot per episode, this plot results in numerous conflicts. In "Hero," we see the courtroom drama, the hero's professional situation and his marriage all in turmoil as a result of his dilemma. KST made the most of this story.

To me, watching a man face such a choice provides better drama than simply waiting to find out whether he will win a gun battle or survive an operation or wondering who he will sleep with this week.

The drama becomes even more real when one thinks of modern politicians who have gone to great lengths to deny affairs - even to the point of letting innocent people die. The title of the episode turns out to be more of a commentary on our times instead of praise for the main character.

Miscellaneous - This episode is unique because there is now more information about this episode than most other KST stories. Director Ralph Senensky has provided his own commentary plus generous film clips from "Hero" at the Ralph's Trek blog:

Except for a car chase sequence later in the script, this was a very talky script that was reminiscent of the live television dramas from the decade before. And it certainly owed a debt to REAR WINDOW.

The car chase Senensky refers to provides more than a mere action break. The resolution of the car chase was an important plot point and made the "hero's" moral choice more stark. Spoiler alert - Don't watch Senensky's clips if you don't already know the ending.

Senensky also writes of unexpected difficulties arising from one of the earliest uses of color on television in this episode.

Actors

Lloyd Bridges plays the main role. The internet bios I have seen for Bridges ignore his KST role.

Dabbs Greer played the innocent suspect. Senensky's blog contains much information about his career.

Berkeley Harris played the defense attorney. Despite having many speaking lines, his role is uncredited at IMDB.com. Many of the IMDB.com cast listings are incomplete for KST. (I believe this is starting to change with the show's newfound popularity on RTV.) Harris also played in 2 other KST episodes, which are credited at IMDB.com.

update 7-2-10 - after seeing the episode on RTV again (for the first time in two years) I noticed David Lewis, playing the first of 2 KST episodes. [IMDB.com apparently leaves out 4 major characters from this episode. Click here for my discussion and speculation of KST characters being ignored on that type of website. IMDB also left out Victor French as the murderer and William Bramley as the DA.]

Cars - In addition to this episode's focus on the hero's internal struggles, it does feature the proverbial car chase. In the car chase, Lloyd Bridges drives a white Lincoln (@ 1962-1964). He is chased by the killer in a 1963 Mercury Monterey. Senensky does not remember filming this sequence and speculates that they may have used stock footage from another movie or show. I have my doubts. The 63 Mercury was a fixture on KST. The same car appeared earlier in this episode. The car was practically new (as was the Lincoln). The producers would have had to have re-used very recent footage for Senensky's speculation to be correct.

Star Trek Connection - The Star Trek connection in this episode is the director, Ralph Senensky. He directed several episodes of Star Trek, including "This Side of Paradise," "Metamorphosis," "Obsession," "Bread and Circuses," "Is There in Truth, No Beauty," and "The Tholian Web." He provides extensive commentary and film clips on these episodes at his blog.

Senensky also directed episodes of, inter alia, The Fugitive, The Waltons, Ironside, Mission Impossible and Route 66.

Here is a clip of the opening theme (copied from Senensky's blog). This clip is more complete than the clip I uploaded here.
video

update - 7-2-10 - Another Star Trek connection is William Bramley, as the Prosecutor. Bramley later played in the season #2 episode, "The Jack is High," also directed by Ralph Senensky. Bramley played the most prominent policeman in Star Trek's "Bread and Circuses," also directed by Senensky.

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